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This Chef is Cooking Native American Thanksgiving Meals for Everyone at Standing Rock

Editor's note: OCA raised nearly $40,000 from our networks for food and supplies for the Standing Rock water protectors. As promised, we matched the first $4,000 with our own funds. We've spent $8,000 so far on food and are working with local organic farmers and suppliers to source another $32,000 worth of food for those who are protecting their land.

On a chilly day earlier this week, Brian Yazzie was running back and forth in front of the First Universalist Church in Minneapolis. Wearing a light pair of pants and a short-sleeved shirt, he was too busy to worry about the cold wind whipping around him.

He was gathering donations of food for an epic trip to the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota. The haul is eclectic, ranging from crates of butternut squash to bags of Halloween candy.

But Yazzie isn't cooking just any menu. For five days, he'll prepare three meals a day for those protesting a 4,000-mile pipeline that they claim crosses over sacred land and jeopardizes their water supply. That's breakfast, lunch and dinner for 3,000-4,000 folks.

The cooking begins Wednesday, and continues of course through the Thanksgiving holiday. You might think that means mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, right? Think again. For a holiday that many Native people feel misrepresents them and spins a rosy tale of colonization, Yazzie has something else planned.

“Knowing the history and historical trauma of Thanksgiving, for me, being a chef, I focus on indigenous food," he says. “To me it’s about healing and feeding the people to keep them healthy.”

The trauma Yazzie is talking about is a long legacy of abuse and disempowerment. Native people weren’t even US citizens until 1924. They couldn’t vote until then. Many Native children were forced to live in boarding schools, far away from parents and other family.